Thursday, 26 August 2010

Mockingjay Review

This will include a few spoilers, so if you haven't read Mockingjay yet, please wait until you have to read this!

Nobody could argue that Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins was one (if not the) most hotly tipped book of the summer. In the past two years, the Hunger Games has boasted an incredible fan base, and this looks to become even bigger if the film of the first book is put in the works. I bought Mockingjay yesterday from Waterstones Picadilly, and finished it yesterday feeling ... kind of unsatisfied, if I'm honest.

With the increase in fanbase, it was inevitable that Mockingjay would be built up to be something amazing. The previous books have been incredible, fast paced, unpredictable, with very realistic and lifelike characters, as well as a brilliant narrator, Katniss Everdeen. Suzanne Collins sucks you into the story and plotline, while still managing to keep everything real. And with such a huge build up to the final climax of the trilogy, it was only natural that people went in expecting something astounding, myself included. The only thing I can really compare it to is what happened to Stephenie Meyer's Breaking Dawn in 2008. People expected everything from it, and came out the other end feeling disappointed and upset that the series hadn't come to a conclusion they wanted. I read Breaking Dawn when it came out, after following the series for a while, and luckily I was not one of these people. Maybe that's why I didn't think to hold back my expectations for Mockingjay.

Let me explain why I didn't feel completely satisfied with Mockingjay. From the very start, there was something off about Katniss's voice in this book. Though the same elements of her character were there, it just seemed to lack the continuity of the other books. This is understandable, what with the strain and horror of everything that has happened to Katniss, it's only logical that she should change as a character. But in my opinion, the change was too big. The main character that people fell in love with during the first two books - strong, independent, fierce, a survivor - completely fell through the cracks here. By the end of the book, Collins presented us with a drug-addicted, depressed and frankly, ruined version of Katniss. Once again I understand that the impact of everything that happened in Mockingjay, and the build up to it would alter her character. But it didn't feel right to me, how much Katniss changed and altered from her previous personality. Like Collins was trying to keep with reality so much, she lost a sense of the real character.

Another thing I didn't like about the book was the pace. In both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, the pace has been one of the best things about it. There was never a dull or boring moment, and everything flowed easily. They were page turners, right from the start. But in Mockingkjay, the pace was completely different, and it suffered for it. In the beginning, I have to say the pace was incredibly slow. It starts of a few months after the bombing of District 12, with Katniss narrating what happened to the District, and how District 13 became their home, as well as their part in the Quarter Quell. (I have some issues with this as well, but I'll get to that later). But in the first hundred pages or so, while Katniss is making the decision to become the Mockingjay, a task we already knew she would take on, the book drags. It is as lifeless as Katniss, and had I been reading this book without being invested in the series, I probably would have stopped. The book should have started when Katniss became the Mockingjay. I don't particularly understand why there was any build up for this, because that was what she accepted in the arena, when she shot the arrow into the forcefield. That there was a rebellion, and that she was the face of it. Katniss, the girl on fire. Even with all the emotional trauma, what was the point in delaying this?

On the other end of the scale, still speaking about pace, we have the climax of the novel, when they are in the Capitol. Here, the pace moves to fast. Way too fast. Main characters are dying left, right and centre, in a way that seems sloppily done by Collins. Finnick, a character who has become central in Mockingjay, dies abruptly. One moment he's there, the next he's being eaten by Mutts. But it just seems like with this, Collins is trying too hard to play on the reader's emotions. The death of Rue in The Hunger Games was extremely well executed. But the death of Finnick? Not even close. Everything is moving so fast, it's hard to take in, and even if this is the reality of the battle, it just seems like Finnick is one more person to add to Katniss's death count. A non-entity.

After this, the pace was so fast I almost couldn't keep up. One minute they're in the underground, the next they're on the street. I was sitting there reading thinking, 'wait, where is this taking place? Where are they?' because I honestly didn't know. Maybe that was my fault as a reader. Being pulled along by the fast pace meant I was reading quickly. I could have skimmed some details accidently, or not let the words sink in, so that might be my fault. I'm planning on reading the entire series again soon, so then I could see where I was wrong. But one of the things that really confused me while reading the climax was the end. How did Prim end up with the Capitol children? This isn't really explained even after this, which is irritating, seeing as Prim was another central character who died abruptly. No time or care was taken to consider this death, and even in Katniss's aftermath she seems empty about his. Then it skips to Katniss being in a hospital bed. I'm sorry, but what just happened? There wasn't even a line break to show this. Just a tab break, and suddenly Katniss is in hospital, the entire climax scene is over, and oh yeah, Prim's dead. Too much time was wasted in the build up, and too little in the execution for the war itself. There wasn't balance, and as I result, I didn't feel satisfied.

One final thing was the epilogue. I've known for a long time that the series was going in this direction, Katniss ending up with Peeta. In a way, it was inevitable, and despite the character development Gale has in this book, he's never presented as a real contender. Just a distraction. Which, if we look at the amount of time agonising over this in the previous books, doesn't give Gale much credit at all. Then it seems since the war, he’s not featured in Katniss’s life at all, which doesn’t seem like Gale. He would want to be in Katniss’s life, even if it wasn’t as her partner. Like the rest of the book, the ending is far too abrupt. Katniss falls in love with Peeta, they have children, the end. This just didn't sit well with me. After all the time and effort Collins has spent to create this story and world, you would think more would have been put into its final conclusion. But there's not, and the reader is left feeling disillusioned and incomplete, just as I did when I shut the book. I thought to myself, 'is that it?' I guess so.

There are good points to this book. I disliked Coin immediately, and Collins presented her in a way that she was a real contender for Snow, something I didn't think was possible. I liked the twist at the end, where Katniss has been manipulated again, because it encompasses everything about the series - Katniss will always be used as a piece in their games. Until Katniss has her own revenge on Coin, that cycle wouldn't have broken. Also, I liked that Finnick was brought into more detail, seeing as he'd been something of a question mark in Catching Fire. One more thing Collins did well was answer questions, about Snow, the blood and roses, District 13, and Haymitch. The only thing that troubled me about District 13 was how different it was, compared to what we were lead to believe in the previous books. I didn't expect the resistance there to be like what it was, so while my questions about the District were answered, I felt slightly disappointed it wasn't what I expected. But again, that was my fault.

I don't mean to criticise Collins with this. At all. She's done a fabulous job in creating characters, a world, and a concept that people truly care about. After The Hunger Games, the nature of things like reality TV and what people will and won't do for power rests on a lot of people's minds, and it is definitely a series that makes you think. The characters are very real as well, I just wish they'd had a better end.

Sorry for this little rant about Mockingjay. I've got a few more writing and publishing related blog posts planned, so stay tuned!

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